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McCarthy on leaving Congress & his support for Trump

Republican Kevin McCarthy talks with CBS News chief election & campaign correspondent Robert Costa in an exit interview

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Republican Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from his position as Speaker of the House in October, talks with CBS News chief election & campaign correspondent Robert Costa. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News Sunday Morning)

WASHINGTON – In his first TV interview since announcing his retirement from Congress, Republican Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from his position as Speaker of the House in October, talks with CBS News chief election & campaign correspondent Robert Costa about leading an unruly House and losing his speakership; his thoughts about Florida Representative Matt Gaetz; his predictions for the 2024 elections; and the future he sees as part of a prospective Trump cabinet.

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Politics

Trump’s CPAC speech did not target the trans community

The former president’s speech included scant mention of LGBTQ issues, apart, perhaps, from some oblique references to “woke” public education

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC on Feb. 24 2024 (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When he took the stage before a packed ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, it seemed inevitable that former President Donald Trump would target the transgender community with insults, ridicule and hostile policy pronouncements.

After all, this kind of rhetoric had become a through-line at this year’s convening of Republican lawmakers, pundits, media personalities, electoral candidates, attorneys, activists and government officials — a feature of virtually every speech and panel discussion from Wednesday to Saturday.

And for his part, Trump kicked off his presidential campaign by pledging, in February 2023, to weaponize the federal government against the trans community if he returns to the White House. This came after he unveiled a “Plan to Protect Children from Left-Wing Gender Insanity” and was followed by similar pronouncements from Trump in the months since, as documented by GLAAD.

On Saturday, though, the former president’s speech included scant mention of LGBTQ issues, apart, perhaps, from some oblique references to “woke” public education and attacks on Christianity.

Trump instead addressed a variety of topics over an hour and a half, from attacks on President Joe Biden and the prosecutors who have targeted him with 91 felony counts to diatribes on overseas conflicts and immigration.

The Independent noted several instances in which Trump made untrue or misleading claims onstage, which concerned the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan during his presidency and a supposed electoral fraud scheme in which Californians are being sent multiple ballots.

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Politics

VP Harris, other leaders issue statements on Nex Benedict’s death

The 16-year-old’s death on Feb. 8 sparked outrage and questions about the high school’s response to the altercation

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Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died on Feb. 8 after a fight at their high school. (Family photo)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt are among the political leaders who have issued statements in recent days about the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict after they were assaulted in a school bathroom after enduring months of bullying.

The 16-year-old’s death on Feb. 8 sparked outrage and questions about the high school’s response to the altercation, which had occurred the previous day. LGBTQ leaders who include Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson have called for federal investigations by the Justice and Education Departments.

Advocates pointed to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies, particularly targeting transgender and gender-diverse communities, that have escalated in Oklahoma over the past few years, noting that they tend to increase the incidence of bias-motivated hate violence.

In their statements on X, which offered condolences to those mourning Benedict’s death, the vice president and White House press secretary also pledged solidarity with the LGBTQ community, while Pelosi took aim at “the anti-trans fervor fueled by extreme Republicans” and Pocan — who is gay and chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus — promised to keep fighting for “the dignity that nonbinary and trans Americans deserve. ”

Stitt, who in 2022 signed an anti-trans bill prohibiting students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates, wrote in his statement that “our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates, and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy — and bullies must be held accountable.”

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Politics

Michael Knowles targets trans people & LGBTQ families at CPAC

Medically assisted family planning is a symptom of America’s moral decline that is akin to abortion, Knowles said

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Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC on Feb. 22. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Right-wing commentator Michael Knowles began his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday by briefly addressing the “kerfuffle” over his proclamation during last year’s event that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”

Widely interpreted as a call for violence against transgender people or the trans community, the remarks were denounced at the time by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who called them “shameful, hateful and dangerous.”

Looking back at the incident, Knowles told the crowd “I stand by the observation that men can’t become women.” The controversy, he said, is evidence that the country “is having an identity crisis” — primarily as a consequence of the “decline of religion in America.”

While “true freedom is a national policy based on what we know in our hearts as morally right,” as ordained by God, Knowles said a worldview that makes space for the recognition of LGBTQ people and their families is based on a “false” notion of freedom that privileges, instead, “liberation from all limits.”

He pointed to same-sex marriage as an example, arguing that marriage does not and cannot include unions between “a couple of men, or a couple of women, or three men and a billy goat, for that matter.”

Additionally, Knowles said, one may not claim the “right” to have a child, because “children are people and no one has a right to another person.” He then veered into criticizing the practice of purchasing “designer babies” on the “open market of the surrogacy industry.”

Medically assisted family planning is a symptom of America’s moral decline that is akin to abortion, Knowles said. “If we have the right to kill babies, surely we have the right to buy and sell them too.”

Knowles argued there are “trade-offs” to understanding freedom as a permission structure to identify oneself outside the cisgender male-female binary, or to build relationships and families that are not centered around heterosexual, procreative unions.

Allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms — or, as he put it, giving “men” the “freedom to use the women’s bathroom,” means that “women lose the freedom to have their own bathrooms.”

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Politics

Tuberville promotes anti-transgender sports ban at CPAC

The senator accused the Democrats, “the socialist party” of “dividing the family” by “trying to bring gender together”

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U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) speaks at CPAC 2024 (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – During an interview with right-wing talk show host Ben Ferguson at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) promoted a bill he introduced on Feb. 1, the Protection of Women in Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

The legislation, which Tuberville acknowledged would not be brought to the Senate floor so long as Democrats have a majority in the chamber, would “prohibit any governing body recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee” from allowing transgender women to participate “in any athletic event intended for females.”

The senator accused the Democrats, “the socialist party” of “dividing the family” by “trying to bring gender together, because they think men can have babies now.”

Tuberville expressed frustration with Republican Senate colleagues who did not agree with his sports bill, recounting how he had asked some of them, “don’t you have a daughter?”

“Now they want to tear down sports,” he said, warning that opening women’s and girls’ teams to trans women and girls will result in injury.

Tuberville and Ferguson criticized a new policy adopted by USA Boxing in January, which they found insufficiently restrictive.

The organization’s new rules stipulate that minors “must compete as their birth gender” and in weight classes specified in the rulebook — but allows trans women older than 18 to compete in the female category if they have undergone genital reassignment surgery and agree to quarterly hormone tests for four years.

More transphobia from GOP’s leading candidate for N.C. governor

Taking the stage after Tuberville and Ferguson was North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Republican frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial primary, who also spoke out against allowing trans women and girls to compete in athletics and proclaimed “men oughta go in their own bathroom, not the women’s bathroom.”

Robinson objected to press coverage of his anti-trans remarks during a campaign speech this month in which he said, “we’re going to defend women in this state,” which means “if you’re a man on Friday night and all of the sudden on Saturday, you feel like a woman and you want to go in the women’s bathroom in the mall, you will be arrested — or whatever we got to do to you.”

At a different rally, Robinson said those who “are confused” about their gender should “find a corner outside somewhere to go” to the bathroom.

Robinson accused “the leftist news media” of cherry-picking these statements in their coverage rather than his remarks about other subjects. “Whenever they mention my name, they mention it in connection with social issues,” he said. “According to them, I hate everybody.”

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Political commentary & analysis

Republicans issue new shutdown threat over trans people

On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus issued a letter indicating that the government may shut down if anti-trans polices are not included

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U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol Dome (Photo by Michael Key)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus published a letter threatening a government shutdown in which it outlines a number of policies that are needed to supposedly avert such a result.

Listed among these policies are restrictions on gender affirming care, transgender participation in sports, DEI programs, and defunding Planned Parenthood. This comes after nearly a dozen riders targeting transgender people have been inserted into numerous government spending bills that could result in large scale government shutdowns if not handled by March 8th.

In an exclusive released by Axios, Republican sources state that “people are predicting a shutdown.” The report states that one of the primary drivers of the shutdown frustrations are policy riders on gender-affirming care and abortion.

Currently, Speaker Mike Johnson’s negotiations reportedly do not include gender affirming care policies, which is upsetting Republicans who have pushed for the inclusion of those policies in the final bill. Biden has stated opposition to any bill that contains them, and the riders did not make the final cut for the previous stopgap budget bill.

Now, in a letter from the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans state that unless these policies are included, the “probability that the appropriations bills will be supported by even a majority of Republicans” is low.

See the full letter here:

Increasingly, Democrats and LGBTQ+ organizations have applied pressure on the Biden administration and Democratic leadership not to accept any deal that includes anti-LGBTQ+ riders. In a letter signed by 163 Democratic members of congress, they state that bans on gender affirming care, pride flags, DEI initiatives, and discrimination should not be on the table for negotiation. Human Rights Campaign has likewise released an advertisement echoing that message:

These policies encompass bans on pride flags, prohibitions on insurance coverage, restrictions on DEI programs, and even the defunding of children’s hospitals that offer gender-affirming care.

Such measures could lead to nationwide bans on care if “federal funding” is broadly interpreted. These provisions are found in funding bills for the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the military, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other sectors.

Some factions within the Republican Party have increasingly indicated that targeting transgender individuals is a top priority and may view a shutdown as worth the political risk over transgender issues. Representative Dan Crenshaw stated in June that such bans are the “hill we will die on.”

It would not be the first time government operations have ground to a halt over transgender issues; in 2023, Republicans refused to move forward with any other bills unless they could pass a ban on gender-affirming care, allowing a filibuster to last for three months. Should this occur at the national level, however, it would represent the most significant impact of anti-trans policies on multiple sectors of government.

Democrats have not shown a willingness to compromise over national anti-transgender riders so far. However, if a new bill is not passed by March 1st, a partial government shutdown will trigger; March 8th is the deadline for a full government shutdown.

Should Republican leadership proceed without any of the anti-trans policy riders, many Republican voters will likely vote against the bill, and Speaker Johnson could see his own speakership threatened. Until the 2024 general elections, the riders represent the largest risk for transgender people and their care nationwide.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Politics

Houston candidate tests if Democrats tolerate anti-LGBTQ votes

Rep. Shawn Thierry voted for three anti-LGBTQ bills last year, which could make her more vulnerable as she fights for reelection

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Texas state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Harris County) reelection yard sign. (Screenshot/YouTube Campaign advert)

By Zach Despart | HOUSTON, Texas – That Senate Bill 14 would pass was not in doubt.

The legislation, which would bar gender-transitioning care for children and teens, had universal Republican support and merely awaited final sign-off by the GOP-led House.

The only surprise that May evening in the Capitol was when Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, strode to the front of the chamber and announced she was breaking with her party to support the bill.

Children must be protected from transgender care because of its risk of harm, she said, citing precedent in Texas for allowing only adults to get tattoos, use tanning salons and purchase tobacco products. She said teenagers’ brains are not developed enough to make potentially irreversible medical decisions.

“This debate… was never about erasing trans children,” Thierry said in a tearful 12-minute speech. “For me, this discussion is about how to best protect and care for these children as they navigate through the challenging journey of finding the best version of themselves.”

RELATED STORY
Republican blitz on LGBTQ issues exposes fractures among Texas Democrats

MAY 23, 2023

Thierry’s remarks ignored that treatment decisions for minors can only be made by parents or legal guardians, as well as the consensus of major medical groups that gender-transitioning care should be available to children and teens in the care of doctors.

Republicans were quick to praise Thierry as a brave politician willing to buck her radical party. To Democrats, who watched the speech in stunned silence, she had betrayed their party’s commitment to protect LGBTQ+ rights and vulnerable Texans.

“It feels defeating, when you’re a Democrat in the Texas Legislature,” said Dallas Rep. Jessica González, one of several gay members of the caucus. “The last two legislative sessions had the most conservative bills. That’s why it’s even more important for us to stick together.”

The political fallout is spilling into the Democratic primary, where in her bid for reelection Thierry faces two challengers. One of them, labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, is well funded and has secured the support of several Democratic officials — including sitting House members — and progressive groups like the influential Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus. A Democratic club in Houston censured her, accusing Thierry of turning her back on the gay and transgender community.

Thierry, whose small-dollar donations have largely dried up, now relies heavily on wealthy Republican donors to fund her campaign.

More than a third of Thierry’s donations over the past year came from individuals or groups who typically support Republican candidates, a curiosity in a predominantly Democratic district. They include $10,000 from Doug Deason, a conservative activist, and $15,000 from his pro-school voucher Family Empowerment Coalition PAC.

While she’s not the only Democrat in the House to have voted with Republicans on those bills, Thierry’s race has become a referendum on whether elected officials who do not fully support LGBTQ+ causes can remain in good standing with the Democratic Party. Thierry is insistent she can, and said her votes last year reflected the will of her constituents.

Thierry, who declined to sit for an interview but spoke briefly to The Texas Tribune by phone, said most of the criticism of her on LGBTQ+ issues comes from white progressives outside her district, who do not represent her base of more socially conservative, religious Black voters.

“I didn’t just jump out against … my constituents,” Thierry said. “Clearly, I have a good pulse of how the majority of the people in my district feel. I really do. I’ve lived here forever.”

But it’s a knife in the back for gay and transgender residents in District 146, who previously viewed her as an ally. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas endorsed Thierry as recently as 2022.

Ashton Woods, a gay man and founder of Houston’s Black Lives Matter chapter, accused Thierry of lying about her constituents’ support for her LGBTQ+ positions. He said the representative previously presented herself as an ally of the gay and transgender community, but in reality is solely interested in the views of a small group of mostly elderly supporters that agree with her.

“I don’t know who she’s talking to in my age group,” said Woods, 39. “She’s seeking a safe space where people share the same ideology as her.”

Woods, who unsuccessfully challenged Thierry in the 2020 Democratic primary, said her votes on LGBTQ+ issues last year were a reason why he has decided to run again.

Joëlle Espeut, a Black transgender woman in Thierry’s district, said she had doubts about the sincerity of Thierry’s commitment even before the votes.

“I think people think that showing support is merely just saying you support the LGBT community,” Espeut said. “Outside of these bills, her support, at best, was nominal.”

Thierry gives an emotional speech, on the House floor,  on her personal experience during childbirth, on July 31, 2017.
Thierry speaks on her personal experience during childbirth, on the House floor, on July 31, 2017. 
(Photo Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune)

House District 146 covers a swath of south Houston, bounded by Brays Bayou, that includes the world-class Texas Medical Center and world-famous Astrodome. Three-quarters nonwhite and heavily Democratic — President Joe Biden won some precincts by more than 90 points — the district stretches west through middle-class Meyerland and Westbury, heart of the city’s Jewish community. But it is anchored in Sunnyside, a low-income, majority-Black neighborhood that once was a thriving economic hub that is trying to revitalize.

The district has always been represented by a Black Houstonian. Thierry, now 54, in 2016 was selected by Democratic precinct chairs as the party’s nominee for the seat after then-Rep. Borris Miles resigned to run for the state Senate. She was elected unopposed.

Thierry made an impression in her first session by fighting for bipartisan legislation to address the state’s high maternal mortality rate for Black mothers, drawing on the experience of her own difficult pregnancy with her daughter.

In the following sessions, Thierry voted reliably with her party. She joined most of the Democratic caucus in their 2021 protest of a GOP voter restrictions bill, where they absconded to Washington, D.C., for several weeks to shut down the House. It was an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a civil rights activist who integrated Sharpstown High School in Houston.

In the 2023 regular legislative session, Republicans made sexuality and children their new top social issue. By the time lawmakers adjourned in May, much of the camaraderie Thierry had built with fellow Democrats unraveled.

Three major pieces of legislation proposed by Republicans became law last year: a bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation critics feared would be used to target LGBTQ+ literature; a requirement that transgender college athletes play on teams that align their sex assigned at birth; and the ban on trans minors from receiving gender-transitioning care.

RELATED STORY
Texas lawmakers pursued dozens of bills affecting LGBTQ people this year. Here’s what passed and what failed.

UPDATED: JUNE 2, 2023

Thierry supported all three. She was not the only Democrat to break ranks — 11 others supported the book-banning bill. But she was by far the most outspoken in her support for the legislation. She said in another floor speech that the book bill would set up guardrails against explicit materials that have “infiltrated” schools, noting one that she said teaches children how to access dating websites.

Fellow Democrats told the Tribune they were especially frustrated that Thierry did not support their efforts to offer compromises on the transgender bill.

Rep. Ann Johnson, whose district borders Thierry’s, offered an unsuccessful amendment that would have permitted trans teens from receiving such care if two doctors and two mental health professionals approved — a high bar intended to assuage concerns that treatment such as hormones could be carelessly prescribed. Johnson declined to comment.

Thierry skipped the vote on the item, as well as all 18 other Democratic amendments. Thierry said that her positions reflected the views of her constituents.

State representatives gather to listen to discussion of a Point of Order brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023.
State representatives listen to a Point of Order discussion brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023. 
(Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.  (Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)

Community leaders in Sunnyside said LGBTQ+ issues are not the ones they think most about. Sunnyside Civic Club President Tracy Stephens, 66, recalls when the neighborhood was a bustling center of Black life in Houston, with its own movie theaters, bowling alleys and grocery stores.

After decades of neglect and underinvestment, he said Sunnyside needs a representative that will secure funding for street repairs and strengthen penalties for pollution. He commended Thierry for being accessible and attentive to these needs.

Stephens also said he supported Thierry’s stances on the book rating and gender-transitioning care bills. These weren’t issues when he was a kid, he said, adding that he understood Thierry’s desire to protect children.

“You’ve got to think about what’s going to happen to that kid in the long run,” Stephens said about gender-transitioning care.

Sandra Massie Hines, who earned the nickname “the mayor of Sunnyside” for her civil rights work in the community, said her focus lately has been helping elderly residents at risk of homelessness because of rising rents.

When it comes to gay and trans issues, Hines said she supported Thierry’s votes. She said exposing children to LGBTQ+ materials is confusing for them.

“I think kids shouldn’t be coached into being told they need to grow extremities, or cut off extremities,” said Hines, 75. “I just think a lot of that is fostered by adults.”

Gender transition surgery is extremely rare under the age of 18, according to doctors, and in most cases gender-transition medical care for minors means hormone therapy or puberty blockers.

But younger residents, and those with gay or trans family members, said Thierry’s stances are hurtful and don’t represent the largely progressive district.

Gender-transitioning care, including doctor-prescribed hormones, makes life bearable for a 16-year-old trans teenager in District 146, their mother said.

The Tribune granted her anonymity, after verifying her identity and address, because Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized state officials to open child abuse investigations into parents who provide gender-affirming care to their trans children. Those investigations are on pause due to a lawsuit filed by Texas families against the state.

The child came out as trans at age 7. They had a mental health crisis at 10, a common occurrence for children suffering from gender dysphoria, a type of psychological distress that results from a mismatch between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. Their mother said at the time she did not understand the kind of support they needed. Gender-transitioning treatments have significantly improved the teen’s mental and physical health, she said.

“They can just go to school, do the SATs, get their driver’s license and think about who they’re going to take to the spring dance,” she said. “It freed them up to have a developmentally normal life, as opposed to where they were at prior to this care, which was a dark place.”

The mother said she wished to share her experience with Thierry as lawmakers considered SB 14 but said her Capitol staff declined to schedule an appointment. She said aides said constituents could visit the office at any time to see if Thierry was available. The mother said it was impractical to make the three-hour drive from Houston without a guarantee (Thierry’s chief of staff said she makes time to meet with visitors, even if it requires stepping away from legislative business).

Now that gender-transitioning care is banned, the mother said she has made a plan to move to a different state if necessary, a step other Texas families with trans children have already taken.

Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston. (Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Anger with Thierry over her votes last year has created an opening for labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, with a faction of Democrats coalescing around her.

Simmons, who has never before sought elected office, said residents encouraged her to run after a video of her criticizing the state takeover of Houston ISD exploded in popularity online. With two children in the district, Simmons was worried about Republican attacks on public education and felt Thierry was unresponsive to constituents about the issue.

She was shocked to see Thierry’s remarks on SB 14, which she felt were “ripped from the Republican national agenda.” Why not make a 12-minute speech on the most pressing issues in District 146, she wondered, like gun violence and the lack of grocery stores?

Simmons, 36, likened the plight of the parents of trans children to her own daughter’s treatment for sickle-cell anemia, which includes an experimental chemotherapy drug and opioids.

“Those are decisions that are hard for me and her dad to make with her medical team,” Simmons said. “I get really nervous when we start passing legislation about what decisions parents can make about their children’s health care.”

Simmons has captured some of the marquee Democratic endorsements, including labor unions and Planned Parenthood, as well as Equality Texas, which had previously endorsed Thierry. Democratic leaders including Houston City Controller Chris Hollins, former Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Odus Evbagharu and three House Democrats have also backed her.

Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston. 
(Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Two Black Democratic House members — Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins of San Antonio and Nicole Collier of Fort Worth — have endorsed Thierry, as have local groups including the Houston Black American Democrats and the Harris County chapter of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

Collier disagrees with Thierry’s vote on SB 14. But she said Thierry has been a devoted Democrat on other issues and does not deserve to be purged from the party. Collier praised Thierry as a skilled and hardworking legislator who has done much for her district.

“It takes a lot of courage to take a stand on a provision that isn’t popular or safe,” Collier said. “I respect that as a leader, she is able to do that, in a time where everyone expected her to go along.”

Other Democrats view it differently. There is room for the party’s elected officials to offer lukewarm support to the LGBTQ+ community in moderate districts, they believe, but not in one that has one of the highest shares of Democrat voters of any in the state.

“It is increasingly hard for us to not only pass meaningful legislation, but also defeat harmful policies,” said González, who has endorsed Simmons. “I firmly believe it’s important for us to stand up and fight for our Democratic values and also elect other Democrats who share those values.”

William Melhado contributed reporting.

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Zach Despart’s staff photo

Zach Despart is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune. He investigates power — who wields it, how and to what ends — through the lens of Texas government. He has extensively covered the Uvalde school shooting, including a groundbreaking investigation on the role the gunman’s rifle played in the disastrous police response.

He previously covered Harris County for the Houston Chronicle, where he reported on corruption, elections, disaster preparedness and the region’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. An upstate New York native, he received his bachelor’s degree in political science and film from the University of Vermont.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Poll: Schiff continues to lead U.S. Senate Primary with 28%

Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%

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Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) speaking to group in the Capitol in January 2024. (Official U.S. House of Representatives photo)

BOSTON, Mass. – A new Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill survey finds California Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate Primary, with 28%, followed by former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball player, Republican Steve Garvey at 22%, and Schiff’s Democratic House colleague Katie Porter with 16%.

The Emerson College Polling also found that nine percent of voters support Democratic U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee. Seventeen percent remain undecided. 
Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%, and Porter’s support increased by three points, from 13% to 16%.

“Candidate support varies by age group,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, noted. “Schiff’s support is highest among voters in their 60s, at 45%, and those over 70, with 39%, whereas Porter’s strength is among young voters, where she holds 23%. Notably, this group has the highest share of undecided voters at 28%. Garvey’s strength is also with older voters, with 33% support among voters over 70.”

Emerson researchers also found:

  • Half of California voters (50%) approve of the job President Biden is doing in office, while 41% disapprove. Governor Newsom holds a 49% job approval, while 40% disapprove.
  • In the likely general election between Biden and former President Donald Trump, 55% would support Biden, 33% Trump, while 12% are undecided. With third-party candidates added to the ballot test, Biden’s support decreased to 49%, Trump’s to 31%, while 8% instead supported Robert Kennedy Jr., and 1% supported Cornel West and Jill Stein respectively. 
  • In the March Republican Primary, 72% of GOP voters plan to vote for Trump, 20% for Haley, and 8% are undecided. In the Democratic Primary, 75% of voters support President Biden, 9% Dean Phillips, and 16% are undecided.

The Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill California poll was conducted February 16-18, 2024. The sample consisted of 1,000 registered voters, with a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error, of +/- 3 percentage points.

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Politics

Plans for ‘Christian nationalism’ if Trump wins a second term

New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles

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President Trump is applauded by gathered religious leaders on May 4, 2017, as he displays his signature on his Executive Order Promoting Free Speech & Religious Liberty, at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles if he is reelected would make Christian nationalism a guiding principle of governance and public policy in a second term.

Politico reported on Tuesday that it had reviewed a list of priorities for a second Trump administration that was prepared by a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America and included “Christian nationalism.”

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson at the organization disputed the accuracy of the reporting.

CRA is led by Russell Vought, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget in the first Trump administration and is considered a top candidate for the chief-of-staff job if he returns to the White House.

The bulleted list also featured examples of ways in which Trump would consolidate and exercise the powers of the presidency in a maximalist fashion, including by using the military to quash protests and by refusing to spend congressionally appropriated funds on any projects that he does not agree with.

Sources at CRA who were familiar with the plans told Politico that Vought speaks with Trump at least once per month and plans to leverage his relationship with the former president to elevate Christian nationalism in a second term.

Politico noted that Vought is close with William Wolfe, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and as director of legislative affairs at the State Department during the Trump administration — and has advocated for ending abortion, reducing access to contraceptives and overturning the right to same-sex marriage.

In a post on X last week, Wolfe circulated the false allegation that the shooter who injured two people at a Texas megachurch was transgender, writing “The “T” in LGBT stands for “Terrorist.”

The former Trump official is an advisor on Project 2025, the 887-page governing agenda for the next Republican administration that was created by the Heritage Foundation, another conservative think tank.

Like the CRA document, Project 2025 outlines plans to advance Christian nationalism in American government. Specific policies include the replacement of secular public education with teaching based on the Bible, outlawing all pornography and eroding protections for LGBTQ Americans.

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Political commentary & analysis

Anti-trans legislative risk assessment map – February Update

6 weeks into 2024, there are already 400+ bills targeting transgender people. This map assesses the risk of the worst laws passing

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By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – I have tracked anti-transgender legislation for 4 years @erininthemorn on Twitter and TikTok. Every day, I’ve gotten messages from worried people wondering how they are supposed to assess their risk of staying in their home state.

The messages range from parents of trans youth wondering if their children will be taken from them to trans teachers wondering if their jobs will be safe in coming years. Sometimes people just want to know if there is a safer state they can move to nearby.

I created the legislative risk map specifically to help answer that question. Now more than ever, it is a question that needs answering for so many transgender people facing forced medical detransition, arrests for using the bathroom, bans on the use of our names, pronouns, and identification documents, and many other curtailments of our rights to exist in public life.

In previous iterations of the map, the focus was entirely on the risk to transgender youth. When the map was first developed, bills targeting transgender youth were far more common. Unfortunately over the last year, the transgender youth map has lost all granularity, largely reducing to just two colors: red and blue, a set of states criminalizing trans youth and a set of states protecting them.

You can still find this map at the end of the document, and it will be continually updated. The primary map of focus, though, will be the transgender adult map, as bills targeting trans adults have become far more common.

Methodology

The methodology used is primarily qualitative, with a scoring-rubric element for the worst bills. Part of the methodology is my own expert assessment of laws, of which I am well equipped to do. I have read all 550 bills that target trans people in America in 2023 and 400 in the first 6 weeks of 2024. I have watched hundreds of hours of hearings on anti-trans legislation and am fully aware of all of the players nationally as well as where they are making their pushes against trans rights. I have followed the vote count and talk to activists on the ground in each state. I am looking at how similar states are moving in their legislative cycles. Lastly, I watch for statements by governors and bill drafts to see if the Republican party in various states seems to be pushing anti-trans legislation heavily – you can see many examples of such legislation in this newsletter.

In terms of actual laws, I keep a rubric of the various types of laws that target transgender people. For transgender youth, the most concerning laws are those that prohibit gender-affirming care and mandate detransition. Additionally, bathroom bans, laws that rigidly define sex as binary, and restrictions on social transition are other key factors that negatively impact a state’s ranking. For transgender adults, the primary legislative concerns include adult gender affirming care bans, bathroom bans, prohibitions on drag specifically aimed at trans people and pride events, restrictions on changing birth certificates and drivers licenses, and laws that end legal recognition for trans people entirely. These factors play a significant role in how I assess and rank a state’s legislative risk.

The Adult Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

This updated map delineates the legislative risks concerning laws aimed at transgender adults in the United States. States like Florida have eliminated 80% of all trans adult care, adults can be thrown in jail for using the bathroom of their gender identity, and trans people with correct gender markers on their drivers licenses can be charged with fraud. Multiple states have passed laws ending all legal recognition for trans people. As such, starting this year, adult risk levels for trans people will be tracked on its own map.

Moves in this update: Utah (High Risk → Worst Laws Passed), Iowa (Medium Risk → High Risk), South Dakota (Medium Risk → High Risk)

  • Summary of updates: There are two major moves on this map update. Utah has passed a bathroom ban targeting transgender people, but it is unclear on how or where the law applies. Similarly, the same bill defines sex in a way that ends legal recognition for trans people in much of Utah’s code. For Iowa and South Dakota, many harsh anti-trans laws have been proposed and have already passed at least one committee vote. South Dakota’s drag ban, which passed committee, could be used to target Pride festivities. Iowa, meanwhile, has a bill that could require all transgender people who change their birth certificates to have a special gender marker that would out them as trans that is moving through and has already passed a committee vote.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans adult healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

Here are the categories:

  • Do Not Travel (FL): The only state earning a “Do Not Travel” advisory is Florida. Florida has a law that allows for the arrest of transgender people for using bathrooms according to their gender identity and another policy targets transgender people’s drivers licenses. Local LGBTQ+ orgs as well as HRC have issued travel advisories for the state. This analysis likewise concurs with such a rating.
  • The Worst States (KS, MT, ND, OK, TN, UT): These states have passed deeply troubling legislation targeting transgender adults in extremely harmful new ways. KansasFlorida, and Utah have bathroom bans for transgender adults, while Tennessee briefly enacted a law requiring signage to warn of the presence of transgender individuals in restrooms. Many, including Florida, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have gone so far as to legislatively erase transgender people, effectively removing any legal rights associated with their gender identities. Other states, such as Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, prohibit any changes to birth certificates, forcing trans people to out themselves when showing their documents. In Kansas, this law could even force individuals who have updated their driver’s licenses and birth certificates to see their gender markers reverted. These states also could start targeting adult gender affirming care – Florida has already done so, banning 80% of such care. Florida has also put into effect a policy that says trans people “misrepresenting” their gender on their drivers license could be guilty of fraud.
  • High-Risk States (AL, AR, IA, IN, LA, MO, MS, NE, OH, SC, SD, TX, WV): All of these states have passed some anti-trans adult laws, but they haven’t reached the same level of severity as the worst states. Missouri and West Virginia, for example, prohibit gender-affirming care for incarcerated adults as well as transgender youth and have seen new laws proposed this cycle going even further. Nebraska’s governor has issued an executive order ending legal recognition of trans people. Additionally, some of these states, including Alabama and Arkansas, have laws that permit the refusal of medical care to LGBTQ+ individuals on religious grounds. South Dakota is advancing a drag ban that could block Pride parades from happening, and Iowa may soon require trans people to have special markers on their birth certificates identifying them as trans. Although each of these states has laws targeting transgender adults, none have done so to the extent of the worst states.
  • Moderate-Risk States (AK, GA, ID, KY, NC, NH, WY): These states have either passed one or two laws aimed at transgender adults or have enacted multiple laws targeting transgender youth, or are advancing negative laws quickly. For states focusing on trans youth, history shows they are more likely to introduce anti-trans legislation for adults in subsequent years. All of these states are under Republican control, either through supermajorities in the legislature or Republican governorships. Many have enacted “Don’t Say Gay” provisions, which frequently result in the banning of transgender teachers – in Georgia, for instance, a teacher was fired for merely reading a book with a character that could vaguely be interpreted as transgender. Additionally, many have passed religious refusal rights bills. However, most of these states have either not yet ventured into anti-trans adult legislation or have only passed milder forms of such laws.
  • Low-Risk States (AZ, DE, ME, MI, NV, PA, RI, VA, WI): These states have largely refrained from targeting transgender adults, although they haven’t taken extraordinary steps to protect adult transgender rights either. For example, Arizona and Virginia have enacted anti-trans policies affecting youth but, due to state-specific factors, appear unlikely to extend such policies to adults. Conversely, MichiganMaine, and Nevada have enacted fairly robust non-discrimination policies but fall short in ensuring healthcare equity and providing protections for incarcerated transgender individuals. While these states generally offer a safer environment for transgender adults, they stop short of going the extra mile to make their jurisdictions unequivocally safe places to reside.
  • Most Protective States (CA, CO, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA): These states have gone above and beyond in safeguarding the rights and well-being of transgender individuals, making them highly desirable places to live for those in search of security. States like ColoradoHawaiiMaryland, and Washington have enacted comprehensive health insurance laws that cover facial hair removal and an expanded range of medical procedures. Each of these states offers refugee protections for individuals fleeing more repressive states with anti-trans laws. Care is not only supported but also enjoys legal reinforcement from the state, ensuring accessibility as long as such treatments remain lawful at the national level. These states are the most likely to counteract federal anti-trans regulations if faced with a Republican presidency.Please support my independent reporting and advocacy on transgender legislation by subscribing. You help me keep this going and keep people informed.Subscribed

The Youth Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

Very few states now occupy the middle ground in the realm of anti-trans legislation for transgender youth. Those marked in dark red have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with many even mandating medical detransition for these young people. Conversely, states shown in dark blue have implemented refugee protection laws for trans youth seeking to escape the harsh legal environments of more restrictive states.

Moves in this update: Ohio (High Risk → Worst Laws), Wyoming (Medium Risk → High Risk), Arizona (Low Risk → Medium Risk)

  • Summary of updates: Major shifts have occurred for transgender youth on the latest iteration of this map. Ohio has moved into the list of states with the worst anti-trans laws after a harsh gender affirming care ban for transgender youth in the state. Wyoming, which has up to this point resisted anti-trans legislation, has advanced several anti-trans bills that could ban care for trans youth through for full consideration. Perhaps the biggest surprise though comes in Arizona, where Republicans appear to be pushing through a bill that would escape the Governor’s veto by placing a trans student bathroom ban and forced outing policy on the ballot for voters in November.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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California Politics

Assemblymember Lee introduces bill to tackle LBGTQ+ inequalities

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community

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Calif. Attorney General Rob Bonta with Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-24) at a Santa Clara County Democratic Party event in San Jose last Fall. (Photo Credit: Assemblymember Alex Lee/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced AB 3031 to address the inequities and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ community. AB 3031 will create the LGBTQ+ Commission with the goal of improving the health, safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ community members.

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 

“It’s critical that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ community members are recognized by our government,” said Assemblymember Lee. “The Commission will play an important role in informing policy and programs for the LGBTQ+ community. Creating the LGBTQ+ Commission is another important step forward to ensure that everyone can live authentically and inclusively in our community.” 

California is one of the most diverse states in the country. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the Golden State has the largest share of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared to any other highly populated state. About 2.7 million or roughly 9% of Californian adults identify as lesbian, gay, bixsexual or transgender. 

But there continue to be attempts at silencing the LGBTQ+ community in California and across the U.S. Between 2021 to 2022, there were over 391 reported hate crime events motivated by sexual orientation bias in California, an increase of 29% from the previous year. 

Meanwhile, local school boards are also moving to reverse the gains made by the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be banning displays of the pride flag or requiring parental notifications of students’ gender identities. In addition, more than 200 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in over 40 state legislatures were introduced in 2022, according to the State of Pride Report by the California Department of Justice. 

“We have made strides in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and those who desire to put us back in the closet want us to feel ashamed,” said Lee. “But we are never going back. As a member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, I will continue to advocate and fight for the voices of our LGBTQ+ community members to be heard.” 

Under AB 3031, appointments to California’s LGBTQ+ Commission will be considered among individuals who representthe diversity of California’s LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ Commission will be composed of nine members, as follows: 

·         5 members appointed by the Governor. 

·         2 members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. 

·         2 members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules. 

“I thank my colleague Assemblymember Alex Lee for introducing this important legislation to establish the California LGBTQ+ Commission, which will empower our LGBTQ+ community with independent representation to advise the Legislature and Governor on policy matters and provide recommendations for future actions we can take to identify and reduce systemic inequalities and barriers,” said Assemblymember Evan Low, joint-author of AB 3031 and a member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus

“Thanks to Assemblymembers Alex Lee and Evan Low for authoring legislation that creates a state-level Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs,” said BAYMEC President Drew Lloyd. “Having a commission that addresses disparities facing California’s queer community and works to elevate our community’s unique experiences, voices, and concerns, is invaluable. BAYMEC enthusiastically endorses the creation of this Commission and looks forward to working with all stakeholders and our community to create a safe and unique space that leads to a better California for All.” 

“California has come a long way in the fight for full, lived equality for LGBTQ+ people, but our state is not immune to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, violence and right-wing extremism sweeping the country,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “California’s commitment to the health, safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people is needed now more than ever. This commission will be an important demonstration of that commitment and will help ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable members of our community are heard at the highest levels of government.”

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D) represents the 24th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and the community of Sunol.

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